Expressions of Age

  • You have already learned about numbers in Latin, and the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers. Unsurprisingly, these are indispensable if you want to talk about someone’s age!
  • In English, we typically use only the cardinal number to talk about our age (e.g. “I am 23 years old”). However, in Latin, there are two equally correct ways to both ask for and state someone’s age.

Remember that the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers is as important in Latin as it is in English. Cardinal numbers show how many of something there are (e.g. five ducks), while ordinal numbers show the position of a thing in a list or sequence (e.g. the fifth duck).

  • How do you go about asking someone their age in Latin? Simply pose the following question:

Quot annōs nātus/nāta es?

Quot annōs nātus/nāta est?

  • The phrase might be translated as “How many years is it since you were born?” The word quot in Latin is used to ask for the exact numerical quantity of something.
  • The change from the -us ending in nātus to -a shows the need to adjust your question based on the gender of the person for whose age you are asking. You can say nātus for someone who is male, and nāta for someone who is female.
  • Recall also that es is the second person singular present form of the verb esse (“to be”), while est is the third person singular present form. The difference between the two lies in whether you want to ask “how old are you” or “how old is he/she?”
  • To answer this question, respond by giving the cardinal number, remembering to decline it for the accusative case if necessary. Imagine, for instance, that a friend is asking for the age of your baby sister. To answer, you would say:

Soror mea unum annum nāta est.

  • What if your brother is a little older? Say that he is seven years old. You would answer as follows:

Frater meus septem annōs nātus est.

  • On the other hand, what if someone is asking how old you yourself are? Recall the form of the verb esse for the first person singular:

Ego vīgintī annōs nātus sum.

  1. There is another equally correct way to ask someone for their age in Latin. That question runs as follows:

Quem annum agis?

Quem annum agit?

  • This could be translated literally as “What year are you doing?” Once again, the difference between the forms agis and agit is due to their referring to different grammatical subjects, the second person singular and the third person singular, respectively.
  • To answer this question, you should use the ordinal number, and not the cardinal number. When asked what your age is, you might say:

Egō vīcēsimum annum agō.